Making My Bed – That Wonderful Point Called Glue-up

The new owner of the bed called and we talked about delivery in time for New Year’s eve. That saved me a couple of late nights and working Christmas day. It’s been a special week for me this week. Not sure why, but I think it’s because it’s been so quiet, relaxed and happy in spite of the challenges of completing so many things before the Christmas deadlines. I think pacing yourself is important but I also think that without pressure we often under achieve. Making realistic goals helps us to achieve and avoid disappointment and additionally achieve that rare ingredient in current societal  strata, fulfilment. DSC_0041

My hands coax the best from the grain. Seconds and strokes exchange place I look beneath the plane and scraper to halt at that critical point when unity reigns and I see emerge that splendid composition hitherto unseen. DSC_0003 The dozens upon dozens of facets that make up the bed as a whole must first complement one another without one or the other being too dominant yet clearly defined to their place in the whole. My task, even though I have worked at this throughout the piece, is to be willing to change what needs changing for a better end.

Gluing up takes a final call and I call it with cautious apprehension, even after I just completed the final dry-run and rehearsal. Yes, everything seated, but I feel for tightness and tensions between every piece and ease what’s necessary by intuition. My experience tells me this one will ‘glue-freeze’ and I reconsider, pare and try again for feel. When I feel settled I move yet again to the next.


So many close tenons in one glue up can freeze the whole frame before even one piece fully seats because to get each stave in place means placing, insertion and pressure. I work from one end. clamp the first and then work along from end to end until all are in place. Only then can I apply pressure along the length. The joints resist but I know what I must do. Combining the hammer with the clamps resolves momentary rebellion and the joint moves into place with a pop.  DSC_0009

Glue freeze is worsened when a seal locks air in the mortice and this too is met by more force. Suddenly all of the joints are in place and seated close enough for me to relax and apply more clamps. This is very satisfying I think.

DSC_0009 With more clamps in place I feel relaxed and calm. The pace eases as I begin working on the bed posts. They too went through a process of refinements in the mortise holes and shaping too. I planed every face and tested them as I said. I use draw bore methods for connecting the posts and rails. This means offsetting the holes so that when I drive the pins they draw the shoulders of the tenons tight to the post. DSC_0016 First I bore through bore the 1/2″ hole through the post. I then bore the offset hole through the tenon by seating the joint, putting the bit back into the hole, and removing the tenon to bore through it as an offset hole 1/16″ off centre. DSC_0012

DSC_0017 DSC_0019 I made my pins from the sapele with a square head that corresponds to the squared off entry hole. I used my ‘poor-mans dowel maker’, which is a 1/2″ washer to size the pin to exact size and this works especially well.

With that done I feel set to glue the posts and tenons together. I did deal with all the flawed surfaces as I planed, scraped and sanded. DSC_0029 Oak has a propensity to separate on the medullary rays when you use quartersawn wood. I use superglue on these areas and this either fills the voids or glues the separation so that they are one again. DSC_0030 - Version 2 The thinner the superglue the better, as this wicks into the voids quickly. Sometimes I use the kicker to accelerate the glue so I can move on.

DSC_0023 DSC_0016 DSC_0025 After all of this I glue and drive home the post to the rail tenons hard with a block and hammer. I do not hesitate and especially is this so if the post seems not to move. I keep driving until it moves and then I see it seat and I feel the victory.


  1. Any chance you could show the finished panel with the inlay? It looked very nice.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.
    Scott from New Jersey

  2. Paul,
    Being an excellent craftsman and artist, you are also a captivating writer. I feel the tension, relief, and satisfaction as you glue the pieces together. Your writing makes me feel like I am right there with you. Have a wonderful New Year.
    Karl from PA

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